Text José Silva | Translation Jani Dunne
A few years ago, I travelled up the Douro River on a bus and on a boat to visit a few estates and to taste lovely Port wines with a group of Austrians. Some of them were in a brotherhood. Given the general satisfaction and surrender to the beauty of Douro, there was immediate certainty that we would meet again. This time, I was invited by that brotherhood, St. Urbanus Weinritter Ordenskollegium, to visit Vienna in Austria and bring a number of different Port wines with me to present in a commented tasting during dinner as a celebration of the chapter meeting of the brotherhood. After we arranged a few details, I thought it would be interesting to provide a taste of every kind of Port wine so that I would not only be sending the message of quality of that unique kind of wine but I would also be transmitting how its many variations are filled with variety and versatility. Once everyone was in agreement and willing to taste a number of brands, producers were contacted and bottles were collected and dispatched to Austria in advance with instructions on how to properly store them. The Port wines travelling to the centre of Europe were the following:
– Pink Croft
– Dry White Rozès
– Quinta do Vallado 10-year-old Tawny
– Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 20-year-old Tawny
– Quinta da Devesa 30-year-old Tawny
– Vasques de Carvalho 40-year-old Tawny
– Niepoort Colheita 1999 Tawny
– Dalva 40-year-old Dry White
– Poças Special Reserve Ruby
– Quinta do Noval LBV Unfiltered 2009
– Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 2001
– Quinta da Casa Amarela Vintage 2011
Vienna is a very beautiful city with monuments that bring you back to times of splendour, and where culture is all around, as the music of Wagner, Bethoven, Mahler, Mozart and many others fills the air.
I also paid a visit to the Wachau region – still in harvest season at the time – to taste a few great white Austrian wines made from the Geunner-Weltliner and Rieseling grape varieties, and to compare them with the whites we have in Portugal.
On the day of the tasting, we visited the facilities, which had been managed by one of the finest restaurants in Vienna for a long time; it was eventually moved when they transferred the venue to a hotel management school.
In the very comfortable and high quality facilities, the school’s chefs prepared the meal, and the students performed the service under the guidance of the dining room teacher.
In the meantime, the white and rosé wines were being chilled and the reds were stored in a room at a temperature cool enough for serving.
My friend, Dr. Manuel Alexandre, a brother who has been based in Vienna for many long years, was a representative for ICEP (Institute for Portuguese External Commerce, now AICEP) for a long time. He brought along a beautiful old official decanter by IVDP (Port and Douro Wines Institute), that we used to decant the Graham’s Vintage 2001, which already revealed quite a bit of sediment.
The interns had been given simple instructions, enough for them to clearly understand what was intended, and the wines were appropriately served. I was very surprised, however, at the lack of Port wine glasses, which was understandable since these professionals were not accustomed to this type of wine.
The last-minute solution was to use small champagne flutes, which provided a reasonable solution and did not affect the tasting.
The tasting began with the Dry White and the Rosé, side-by-side. The Rosé had a slice of lemon that really livened it up. The other Port were tasted during the meal, between courses and during an explanation of the wines’ characteristics, the importance of serving temperatures, and the many harmonisation possibilities for each style.
Thus, the Tawnies, the Ruby, the LBV and the Vintage wines flowed around the tables. In this case, the comparison was made between a recent Vintage (2011) and a 14-year-old Vintage (2001) that made a very good connection with the several chocolate and red fruit desserts the brothers savoured.
Finally, to end the tasting, we tried two 40-year-old Ports (White and Tawny), which were used to toast to the brotherhood and to Port wine.
The other surprise of the night was that the one enthroned at the ceremony of the brotherhood … was myself!!
Here is the story of our experience and also a suggestion to IVDP and to producers to organise a small event in Vienna, a country that is open to new things, that knows Portugal well, but where there is still a lot of work to do for Portuguese wine, especially Port wine.